Soviets Ordered and Financed Plot to Kill Pope, Agca Testifies
Convicted Turkish terrorist Mehmet Ali Agca told a Rome court Tuesday that the Soviet Union ordered and financed the assassination attempt on Pope John Paul II in 1981.
“The order to kill the Pope started from the Soviet Embassy in Sofia,” Bulgaria, Agca said.
Agca, 27, already under a life prison sentence for wounding the Pope; four other Turks, and three Bulgarians are on trial for plotting the attack.
Agca said the first secretary at the embassy helped him plan the May 13, 1981, attack in St. Peter’s Square. It was the first time during the trial that Agca has charged the Soviets with directing and financing the shooting. Previously, he said publicly that he was hired by Bulgarian agents to shoot the Pope and that the Soviet security agency KGB knew of the plan.
Agca told the court that the Soviet official paid for the attack by giving money to the leader of the rightist Gray Wolves terrorist group through defendant Bekir Celenk, who is being tried in absentia. Agca was a member of the Gray Wolves.
“The first secretary of the Soviet Embassy paid 3 million West German marks (then worth $1.2 million) through Celenk to the head of the Gray Wolves, Celebi,” Agca said. Musa Cerdar Celebi is another Turkish defendant accused of acting as a link between Agca and Celenk.
Under questioning from Judge Severino Santiapichi, Agca identified the Soviet diplomat as “Milenkov” or “Malenkov.” Agca said the Soviet official was 5 feet 10 inches tall, “close to blonde” and heavily built. He wore spectacles and was 40 to 45 years old, Agca said.
“If I see an album (of photographs) I will be able to recognize the person among 100 common criminals,” Agca said.
He testified that in July, 1980, he met with the diplomat, Celenk, Tudor Aivazov, another of the Bulgarian defendants, and Agca’s boyhood friend and co-defendant, Oral Celik, in Sofia’s Vitosha Hotel to plan the assassination.
Santiapichi asked Agca why a Soviet diplomat would risk exposure by meeting with a hired terrorist in a large hotel such as the Vitosha.
Agca said he had already proved his trustworthiness by escaping from a military prison in Turkey in 1979 without implicating any of his Gray Wolves accomplices in the murder of journalist Abdi Ipekci.